Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2023. 9:51 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration Senator Eamon Courtenay maintains the Government is not “backpedaling” on allowing Jamaican nationals to come to Belize as there are presently no restrictions on their coming.
But, he added, in light of continuing concerns of human smuggling into and out of Belize of both nationals of Jamaica and Haiti, Belize is seriously considering its options.
Courtenay sought to clarify a statement contained in the Cabinet Brief press release of March 30, 2023, reading as follows in the relevant part: “After a thorough discussion on the increasing number of visitors who are using Belize as a transit country to reach the United States, Cabinet determined that Belize will invoke Article 226 (a) of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which will allow for the Minister of Immigration to immediately impose a visa requirement for Haitians wishing to visit Belize and to require Jamaican nationals to provide evidence of fully paid non-refundable hotel reservations prior to boarding flights to Belize…” (Emphasis ours).
Today, Courtenay told reporters that the two decisions made by Cabinet were, firstly, to impose the Haitian visa requirement, and secondly, that “the Ministry of Immigration would consult with the Ministry of Tourism to see whether we can put any restrictions on Jamaicans, and one example was given – for example, the non-refundable hotel reservation that you had paid, and that got conflated as if we had immediately put in place both things. We did not put in place, and there is no restriction present at the moment, with regard to Jamaicans.”
The proposed meeting, which will also include the Ministries of Home Affairs and National Defense, will carefully analyze and assess the flow of migrants from several countries including Haiti and Jamaica, as there have been previous incidents with nationals of Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and others.
According to the March 30 Cabinet Brief, a ministerial task force was set up to address the rampant smuggling occurring in this regard. The ministerial subcommittee will be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and Immigration and will include the Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries and the Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations.
Courtenay also noted that he has been regularly in touch with Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith and has assured her that there are no measures in place and that Kingston would be informed and consulted if any are decided on.
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